Recently, in the first time since the space shuttle program was decommissioned in 2011, American Astronauts launched from American soil by way of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. November 15th marks the launch date of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. This launch, dubbed Crew-1, sent four astronauts to the ISS for a 6-month mission. Three crew members are American astronauts. The fourth is a member of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
What makes this flight historic?
This is the first fully operational mission for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. What does that mean, you ask? The Crew-1 mission will achieve the goal of NASA and its commercial partners: to return regular crew rotation flights to the United States, something that hasn’t happened since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. The previous test flight was called Demo-2. It was a test case for launching two American astronauts into space and demonstrated the capabilities of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule.
Crew-1 is called just that because it’s the start of regular rotations and abolishes our reliance on the Russian Space Agency for rides into space. This is also the first time four astronauts were put into the Crew Dragon capsule. The previous launch, Demo-2, only included two astronauts.
Another important set of firsts belong to Daniel Glover, the pilot for this mission, who is the first African American astronaut on a long duration space mission. This is also his first space flight.
“This is the first time we go with a crew of four to the International Space Station on a commercial crew vehicle,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Friday, November 13, 2020. “It is the first time we go with one of our international partners, Japan, and we are so very grateful for the amazing partnership that we have with Japan.”
“And it is the first time we go as a commercial vehicle with humans into orbit licensed by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration],” added Bridenstine.
Yet another first is that the mission commander, Colonel Michael Hopkins, plans to join the United States Space Force. There are even plans to hold a commissioning ceremony in orbit aboard the International Space Station. This is planned for sometime during July and would make the first Space Force service member a serving astronaut.
A privilege bestowed upon a space crew is the ability to name their spacecraft for their mission. This crew has named their spacecraft ‘Resilience’ in honor of the challenge faced by the world in 2020. May we continue to be resilient against the challenges of this year and the years to come in all aspects of our lives. Godspeed and good luck to the astronauts of Crew-1!!